The top US envoy negotiating an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program is in the capital, Pyongyang, for a previously unannounced two-day visit.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill is the highest-level US official to visit North Korea in five years. Before arriving in Pyongyang Thursday, Hill said it is important to make up for lost time on the North Korean nuclear issue.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Hill has so far met with his North Korean counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Kwan. McCormack said the meeting shows that the United States is invested in six-nation talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons programs.
Earlier this year, North Korea agreed to shut down its main nuclear facility by mid-April. However, delays over a banking dispute kept talks from moving forward until last week.
That was when an agreement was reached to transfer about 25 million dollars in North Korean funds, frozen in a Macau bank, back to Pyongyang.
In response, North Korea agreed to re-admit nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. But, Thursday, a North Korean diplomat in Vienna said the money from Macau had yet to be transferred to a bank account in Russia. He said that until the money is moved, no date will be set for the IAEA visit.
A Russian foreign ministry official confirmed Thursday that the process of transferring the funds had begun, but did not say when it would be complete. A Russian diplomatic source tells the Itar-Tass news agency that the funds transfer will be completed by Friday.
Hill has said he expects the six-party nuclear talks to resume in early July.